Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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The Numbers Game

I always wonder what the average person thinks about the number of hits, followers, friends, and subscribers people get on social networking sites and blogs. In many ways they are a legitimate form of recognizing those who have had “success” in various venues. In other ways they are just another way for us to be prideful of our success.

It seems that many within social media are always doing everything they can to get more “friends” on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and readers to their blog. As if they will become legitimized if they just get a few more people to notice and like them. Usually this involves asking everyone possible on those mediums to tell others to come read, follow, or friend you. And if you are like me, you think most people come across as desperate and silly.

I’ve done my best to try to avoid talking about my numbers on Twitter or my blog. Too many times I have seen people who go too far and come off just looking arrogant. It probably means I have less readers and such, but I’d rather do things my way anyway.

Then again, each hit, follower, or subscriber is a human being with a beating heart. In a sense, each hit on this blog is a virtual handshake. In college we took 10 minutes in my first business class to go over the art of the handshake and its importance. The numbers matter much like the handshake matters. The argument of, “the numbers don’t matter,” is the wrong argument because each number is a person.

I’ve always kept a “hit counter” on my blog that seemed much more accurate than what a lot of people use, but even that I’m considering getting rid of. I think stats are valuable in that you can gain respect and clout from the person who understands what the numbers mean. But there is a fine line between showing that some of your hard work has paid off, and using your readers or followers in order for you to look better.

So I’m looking for your help. I don’t have impressive numbers in anyway. Not on this blog, not on Twitter, not on Facebook. But I don’t really know what the best way to deal with these numbers is either.

What are your thoughts on the numbers game of social media?

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  • http://morethanuseless.com Tom

    Sometimes I feel like the numbers game is nothing more than an adults take on the high school popularity contest.

    I try to focus more on establishing conversation with a focused group of people rather than getting some numbers up. Maybe I don’t have 1,000 followers on Twitter for 700 RSS subscribers, but there are a group of people that I feel that I’ve talked with enough online to know that if I met them in person, I don’t think it’d be awkward at all.

    The thing is, if I meet other people through whatever group I have going on now, then that’s cool. I don’t really care that much about running my numbers up though.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      So based on that and based on seeing that your blog doesn’t display any stats, my question would be. Do you think it is a good practice to show off your stats on a blog? (obviously you can’t avoid it on twitter)

      • http://morethanuseless.com Tom

        I’ve never really had a problem with people showing off stats. I think it can help give insight to visitors (especially first-timers) what kind of audience you have.

        If you’re interested in getting into advertising, it’s a major point to have featured as well.

  • Dave

    Remember the words of Jesus, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

  • http://www.thejakers.com Jake Johnson

    I think this is an important topic, especially for Christians in the social media world. A huge thrust in our modern digital world is to build the personal brand. I suppose that’s fine and dandy for business folks, but I’ve been struggling with what my place as minister is when it comes to social media. My job is to point people to Christ, not to myself.

    When I get caught up in the numbers of Twitter, FB, and blogs (a constant battle for me), I change my focus from Jesus to me. Not good.

    Like Tom mentioned (and you as well), I’m trying to change my focus from numbers to people. Relationships are what I’ve found most fulfilling in social media interactions, not the numbers that represent them.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      At the same time though I think people are much more likely to listen to and care about the thoughts of someone with 1,000 blog subscribers than 100. So while yes the goal is to get people to focus on Jesus…numbers can play a role. Right?

      • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

        I think you are hitting on something big here.
        I would have to agree with you mainly because this is seen in conferences and advertising for churches. Especially if you look at most influential bloggers etc…
        I talked more about this in my comment below.

      • http://www.thejakers.com Jake Johnson

        I should remember to check back when I comment! Tyler, I think there’s nothing wrong with having big numbers, and yes there is the authority issue. I have a problem with finding value (and placing value, as you bring up) on big numbers.

        The reality is that there are many ways to get big numbers, and if that’s what you’re going for, there’s a good chance you’ll get them. But that doesn’t make your message right or valuable within itself.

        I think what you’re hinting at is actually a problem of society. We’re all to willing to assign “expert” status to someone because they are good and gathering a crowd. The result is we end up with celebrities who want to be Governors (jk-kinda).

        A good question to ask is, If I have 1,000 people who follow me that I don’t know, am I making as much of an impact for Jesus in their lives as I would with 100 people I know well? I don’t know the answer, but I lean towards the 100 people. thoughts?

  • http://jasonsmith.wordpress.com jason smith

    Tyler,

    I think technorati’s “authority” is built upon how active your blog is in the blog world. How many people are linking to you, pinging you, etc. How many mentions you get and how often your blog address shows up in the WWW.

    I know from a publishing standpoint if you want to write a book down the road, they will want to understand what your “platform” is.

    What’s the difference between platform and self-promotion? Maybe not much, but I think if you are representing Christ or one of his causes and your really believe that the message or perspective you are advancing is worth it, building platform is necessary. I think you can do it without being an online marketing whore like most of us see on Twitter!

    From a networking theory perspective, platform is important. How many people are you immediately connected to that are interested in your message and how many people will they tell about your message? I think most Christian non-fiction publishers want to guarantee you will sell 20,000 books to make back their investment.

    One of the things I have done poorly over the last several years is change my domain name. If I would have kept my domain name and stayed consistent over the last seven years of blogging, I think I would have people paying a little more attention to my blog. I go back and forth on whether or not this is important, but try to think, in 5 years, what do I want my blog/twitter/facebook to achieve?

    Ultimately, God will give you favor with the people you are supposed to have favor with, but I think these are some things to consider about blog, twitter and facebook numbers.

  • http://mattsingley.com/blog Matt Singley

    I suppose it depends on what your goals for a blog or Twitter or any form of social media are. If you are using these platforms to publish opinion or create conversation, I don’t think the numbers are important. If you are using them for promotion or marketing, they are invaluable.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Totally agree that most of it goes back to what the end goal is. The struggle I have is wanting to have a strong reputation within the blogging community without giving up the personal/conversational/relational aspects of blogging that I love. That might be impossible though.

  • http://www.benlemery.com Ben

    Tyler, I have almost lived or died by my stats. It’s like if I don’t get a certain amount of readers that hit the average or above average views, then it just deflates me as a blogger. It’s horrible.

    I will admit and be transparent to anyone reading this that I want everyone to read my blogs, hear my views and think about them. When I don’t see a retweet or a comment or anything, it makes me feel rejected.

    Talk about insecurity eh?

    I have to become comfortable writing because I want to write, no matter how many people view it or not but because I have this odd chip on my shoulder that is out to prove something, I think that holds me back from really hitting my potential.

    Anyway, there is an open view of how having a blog can be a con and keep you unfocused from God’s purposes for it. Almost like an idol.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Thanks for sharing that Ben.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      You are not alone Ben

    • http://erikcederberg.bandcamp.com/ Erik Cederberg

      I’m a little late to the conversation, but, great thoughts here guys. Ben, you definitely aren’t the only one who checks stats and is affected by them.

      I am not a blogger, but I am a musician, and we might even be worse off. I know it means a lot to me when someone listens to the music I have spent a lot of my time and energy (and money) crafting. When they don’t, it can be a little deflating.

      In the long run I think good content, and being willing engage and comment on other people’s work will gain readers / listeners.

  • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

    Here are my thoughts…
    Numbers or stats reminds me of the book of proverbs, they lead you down the path like a lamb to the slaughter.

    I struggle with this myself. Because I think I equate numbers with my reach. The idea that if I have a lot of numbers or readers or followers I am doing something right. I think the reason for this thinking is because we equate success with numbers. What makes people successful? How effective they are, and we can measure their success with numbers. This is the reason why at all conferences we do not see a guy that has a church of 150 speaking but a guy that has 6000 people in his church speaking. This is why we have people who have over 10,000 followers on twitter talking about how to do social media. Success is measured with results we can see.

    But honestly, I have been starting to realize that it is more about connecting with readers and followers then to have a huge reach of readers and followers. Do not get me wrong, I often get caught up in how many readers I had on my blog each day and often get frustrated when I do not have a lot, but I am often reminded (especially through this post) that it is more about the handshake and conversation then how many people I can shake hands with and talk to.

    • http://www.benlemery.com Ben

      Good thoughts Kyle, I am RSSing your blogfeed now so you are on your way up to the 6000 readers mark haha, jk. Your comment about personally connecting is forgotten a lot and some huge bloggers almost seem machine like now. I ask the question, “do I really know them?;” like where is the depth? Huge bloggers can feel like marketed items instead of getting to know real people. Once it gets to that point, I many times don’t even read their posts anymore.

      • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

        To the “big blogger’s” credit, it becomes very difficult to connect with everyone when you get a lot of readers. I don’t have a lot of readers but there are weeks that I don’t have the ability to give attention to everyone who comments through email or by even writing a comment in response. So should all blogs stay small or should we lower our expectations for relational connection with the big bloggers?

        • http://www.benlemery.com Ben

          No I am not saying stay big or small but I do think there is a point where you make a choice to become a product of your blog and that is all you are or you continue to be real to yourself and use it as a platform to share openly and honestly.

          If your blog is increasing due to catchy giveaways and charisma, then I don’t know how much substance is there. I simply want to know that what I see on here is what I would get in real life. I have met some that were great people in person and then others that I wish I never knew that they were really like that. Obviously a much longer thought is there but I don’t want to babble haha.

          Why do I like Tyler, because he isn’t a fake. Plain and simple.

      • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

        Thanks ben, now i need about 5,590 more people. HA

        I do know what you are saying. I call this surface level blogging. Here is why…
        We tend to go on “the big blogs” and leave comments. Thinking that we are the only ones in the room with the writer, when in reality it is us and about 100 other people leaving comments. Hince the reason why it feels like a machine. I think the author wants to interact, but to respond to every comment is difficult. But the main reason I leave a comment is to get interaction from anyone. The problem is that the only person that usually replies to the comments are authors, not the other 1000 individuals reading the post.
        I think that is where the system is broken. Not the authors but the readers who are not interacting with each other.

        • http://brennanloveless.posterous.com brennan Loveless

          There are some great convos going on on this post!
          I find myself agreeing with a lot of what you guys are saying. I think with what Kyle just said makes a huge point. most of the big bloggers are trying to build/maintain this “community” that they often talk about on their blogs, but it really does require the reader to take part with each other, not just wanting to grab the author’s attention so that there might be a chance that they respond to OUR comment as opposed to someone else’s.

          that’s something that i’ve been dealing with lately. i’ve realized that often times i’ll read a blog post and never comment just so i don’t get sucked into a convo with others who may or may not agree with me. my point is with that is that a lot of people are happy with being consumerists and nothing more.

          And I think for an author, it should be extremely important to show yourself as genuine. that was the reason that i changed my blog from wordpress to posterous. i found out that i could very easily give people a window into my life, all of my tweets, photos, etc… autopost straight to that site so it’s really easy (i’m a pretty lazy blogger). But seriously, i used to blog and think about how i could drive traffic there whereas now i really just want people (mainly people at my church) to have a chance, if they want to, to get to know who i am apart from seeing me lead worship on stage on a Sunday morning.

        • Shellie (baylormum)

          Why do I read blog posts? Because I have been unemployed for 15 months and have lots of time on my hands!! I read both Kyle & Tyler. I’m 52, so I probably don’t fit the model of the type of reader they are trying to connect with! I don’t usually read the “big” blogs because they tend to be somewhat professional & cold in their delivery. I like being a “part of”. And that happens on the “smaller” blogs. I am trying to be more thoughtful on my comments. But, sometimes what’s in my head doesn’t get to my fingers!!

          For me it’s not about the numbers, but the connection with the author and the commenters. My husband & I recently moved from TX to WA for a job for him. From a town of 200,000 to 3000. I get incredibly lonely. I have found this virtual community of like-minded (well, most of the time!) people. Again that feeling that I am a “part of”.

          You guys both rock. Keeps me feeling younger! I love the honesty you both bring to your posts. Thanks.

          • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

            Shellie, you are a commenting pro though.
            I think the biggest thing is that we need regular commenters to get the conversation started and continuing.

          • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

            Awesome = A Baylor mum in Washington state.

            What town is that?

          • Shellie (baylormum)

            I did start a conversation!! Ha!

            The short version: I have been unemployed since Nov 08. Then my husband lost his job in May. 2 days after our daughter graduated from Baylor. I had been in TX since 1981, my husband 1985. We had been in our home for 20. He got a job here in Central WA starting Sept 1st. We decided to take the adventure. In our 50’s!! It was tough. Very tough. My online friends gave me lots of prayer AND strength to survive. I am also an addict in recovery, so have met many people at meetings. Though they are 45 min away. Way different than 5 minutes!

            My husband is originally from Pittsburgh & even though he’s 100% Polish, they called their mother “mum”. I have been mum for 23 1/2 years! (no British accent involved) I was trying to “hide” from my 23 year on the internet & came up with baylormum. I didn’t do well with my stealth cover!! But, I think she’s over the fact that I have “met” all these people! We’re still not fb friends, but I did start twittering before she did!

            Guess that wasn’t so short! Back to cleaning the bathrooms…..

  • http://www.contentunderpressure.net Josh

    A timely post, kind sir…

    I’ve noticed myself paying more attention to the stats now that I’ve started a self-hosted blog. It’s almost as if a “professional” blog should only be done if you have a large audience. When I had my Blogspot going, I could have cared less about numbers. Funny how that changed once I was paying for it…

    I know someone heavily engaged in social media, who tells me each day how to develop my blog/twitter following. But, for what? Who am I anyways that the entire world needs to know about me?

    I would rather have 10 people engaged in conversation and developing a sense of community than thousands of casual browsers, personally.

    Currently, I don’t have many views or comments, but an acquaintence from college let me know that some of my posts assisted in him coming to Christ. That was nothing other than a reminder for me to share my heart with no conditions and give it to God.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      I think that is the thing that really shows your effectiveness.
      I hear from people about twice a month that say, what you wrote was really good, or thanks for giving that resource on your blog, I was looking for something like that.

      I think no matter how big our numbers are, we are influencing someone.

    • http://www.benlemery.com Ben

      I feel like I am replying to everyone’s comments but you also bring up a good point. If your posts are helping one person draw nearer to God, then is that enough? I think I take for granted when people say that what I wrote really has made them think, I need to really thank God more for giving me that opportunity to speak into their life.

  • http://gr8-g8.blogspot.com eric lopez

    I think social networking is ultimately good but as soon as profile counters and all that…. get involved it becomes an obsession, pride slips in and you stop being a person that cares about other people. Some people take blogging serious (and those people are fun to mess with) Its easy to see how we all become less of a person when we stop wanting face to face encounters.
    Social networking is so good but gets twisted into something bad.

  • http://liveinthenameoflove.blogspot.com Bianca Juarez

    The people who say numbers don’t matter are usually the people who have the numbers. Ergo, they have the agent, book deal, and following that most bloggers aspire to.

    I’ve only been blogging for about seven months. So, honest question: what is good? How many hits per day equals “reach” or handshakes? I’m totally looking for someone to enlighten me :) Seriously.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Ha, I love it.

      In all seriousness I think it depends on what you are blogging about. Almost anyone can get hits by trying to start a controversy or by blogging about social media. It is much harder to build a consistent and loyal readership.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      I think after 7 months it is tough. Mainly because you have invested almost a year into blogging but you still are working on the foundation, finding your niche, building an audience, etc…
      I would focus more on comments rather then page views and readers. They can tend to be deceiving. I think once you start to get people engaging it changes things. If you look at Tylers blog here, he wrote a good post that will bring people back several times (I have been back now five times to look at the comments and respond). That will give a lot of page views, but most importantly that means that people are interested in conversatinga bout what is going on.

      • http://liveinthenameoflove.blogspot.com Bianca Juarez

        You guys rock! It’s like AskJeeves.com around here :)

        Thanks to you both!

  • http://www.daveingland.com Dave Ingland

    Tyler,

    One thing I can say is that I think stats from something such aa google analytics are valuable. For me, I blogged for years with probably no one reading my content. Now that there is some loyal readership, I find that tracking hits, comments, where traffic comes from, etc. helps me know what topics/posts generate interest. It helps me be more focused on certain things because I know what gets viewed and/or commented on.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Good point. Sometimes the problem with that is a desire to be more controversial because those types of posts always get more hits. I have the quiet that voice in me in order to post about what God has placed on my heart even it means less hits.

  • http://mikeymo1741.blogspot.com Mike Mahoney

    I think it becomes self-defeating at some point. I would rather have a limited number of followers/friends that I can have actual interation with than blind numbers. “Autofollows” completely puzzle me. Why would I want to follow someone I have no interest in?

    When I go on a blog and read a post, then see that there are 200 comments, I wonder what the point of further commentary is. When I see 20 comments, and the author has not replied to any of them I wonder the same thing.

    I have modest blog stats, but I have some readers that I can see come back time and time again. That to me is more valuable than sheer numbers. That means I’m connecting with someone.

    • http://www.manofdepravity.com Tyler

      I’m the same way Mike. I guess the hard part for a writer is figuring out how to engage someone like you and me who feels turned off by seeing that many comments already.

  • http://twitter.com/JeffHolton Jeff Holton

    I’m not particularly interested in popularity. I’m interested in bartering influence and relevance.

    Did I jump up and down and throw myself a little party when you and I connected on Twitter or Facebook [assuming you accept my Facebook friend request, OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE!!!]?

    No. I saw it as an opportunity to create a new connection, to contribute to a relationship or a friendship, to find an opportunity for spiritual growth, or whatever term you feel like using for it.

    I have a limited time on this Earth and I need to absorb as much good influence as I can. While I’m at it, I want to do what I can to repay the favor.

    I cultivate an increasing number of connections in order to accomplish that.

    By the way, I have been quietly bemoaning my blog’s low stats. I’ve had several zero hit days in the past couple weeks. I don’t worry about it too much. It’s my own fault for not posting.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com Kyle Reed

      Consistency is the name of the game.

  • http://www.pinchapigtoe.wordpress.com Maija

    Excellent points, Tyler. I used to obsessively check my hit count on my blog when I first started, but I don’t think I’ve glanced at it in weeks. I’m guessing I have maybe 4 regular readers and that’ll have to do. There is a fine line for me between the numbers on Twitter and my blog somehow being a reflection of creating output that people like and it just being validation for me. I think I’ve made peace with the numbers.

  • http://www.matthewralph.com Matt Ralph

    Great post and great conversation.

    I don’t have too much to add that hasn’t already been said but I have been thinking lately that it’s a shame some folks give up on blogging because they don’t get a lot of hits (whatever that magic number is).

    I see it as the equivalent of a guy (or girl) in a band commenting from the stage about the crowd being small. I hate when then happens – as if the people who did show up need to be lectured or treated any differently because there aren’t more people there.

  • Yonas

    Sometimes, quality over quantity. I don’t have 29,388 friends on facebook and I PREFER it that way and I have unfriended those with ridiculous amount of friends (as well as other criterias). I tried to cut back to less than 100 friends on facebook, but for some reason new ones keep coming, maybe I’m just that likeable LOL.

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  • http://davidgoodwin.com David

    I’m having a bit of a crazy busy week…can I just tick the Facebook “like” button on this post?

    I agree with…pretty much everything here. Sorry, I’m giving a cop-out comment.

  • http://www.justlivingthelife.com Jay Caruso

    I think it’s human nature to want more people to read the things you’re writing. We often boldly claim, “I’m doing this for me and not anybody else!” but we’re quick to log into Google Analytics and check out what kind of numbers our latest blog entry is getting.

    When I first started using Twitter I was concerned about followers but now it doesn’t matter all that much. I have 1000+ followers but I think maybe 10% of those are actually interested in having a conversation (I’ve wanted to pare down my follower/following list but just wish there was something that makes it easier. If anybody has any ideas, let me know). It’s almost to the point when I see I have a new follower that has tens of thousands of followers themselves, I almost don’t bother clicking on it because they’re most likely engaging in some kind of marketing campaign.

    Where numbers do count however, aside from marketing is for advertising. If you’re going to charge $X for somebody to advertise on your site, you’re going to need the numbers necessary for them to even consider it. The first thing they’ll do is say, “Let’s see your stats.”

  • http://godlysheep.com brett barner

    Wow, lots of good conversation going on in the comments. Someone may have already mentioned this, but I use stats on my blog to kind of see what’s working and what’s not. I’m not writing to gain numbers, but using numbers to see what readers are interested in.

    But you’re right. Numbers can be a horrible game to become involved with in ministry. Leads to envy, depression, mood swings, etc.

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